Sunday, September 13, 2009

Altered Books - Exhibiting them

What do you do with an altered book? Many of us keep them or give them as presents. I keep most of mine to show/exhibit. One book is currently being shown in a local art gallery, a juried show. I mentioned before that it was put into the 3D category (sculpture) for lack of an appropriate category. They chose not to put it into Mixed Media. I thought I'd show you some of the other pieces my book was up against in the judging.

If you choose to show an altered book in an art exhibit or enter a juried show - this is something you will need to face up to, and be prepared for. Most galleries and shows do not have a category where altered books fit in comfortably. Yours will probably be the only entry of the type. It may be the first one they have ever shown or seen, for that matter. It will be a curiosity. Other things in the 3 dimensional category were sculptures of wood, stone, and metals. Weaving, jewelry, wood turning, furniture, assemblages, and pottery are also in that category. It's a free-for-all! Can you imagine yourself having to judge this category? Not as simple as judging a watercolor painting against 20 other watercolor paintings. I would not want to do it.

If you decide to enter an altered book in a show, think about how the gallery will show it. Put it on a table? Pedestal? Hang it on a wall? You will need to think these things through and it is important to make it easy for the gallery. If you want it to hang, put on strong hangers and place them so the book holds together and the weight of the pages does not pull them out of the binding.

If the book is to be placed on a pedestal, will it be handled? Will it be standing up, and open? On an easel, either closed or open? I make my books to be handled, but out of courtesy, most people visiting a gallery will not touch anything without an express invitation to do so. In person, I invite people to touch and turn pages. You will note this gallery elected to show my book on a pedestal. It is not effective, in my estimation. It can not be handled easily and you can not see, let alone focus on the smaller details of the interior.

My preference is either a table top, or pedestal large enough to lay the book out flat and still have room for a little sign. If the book is laid flat so only a spread is shown - make sure it is opened to your favorite spread. A soft cushion under the book can raise it into a better position for viewing and turning pages. I like to set it so the book is on an angle - cradled by the cushion. I recently bought some soft stuffed dog toys shaped like a cylinder about 8 inches long (at the Dollar Tree). They make excellent book cushions, pack easily and are neat and tidy looking. I'm going to cover them with black fabric, or unprimed artist canvas with words "altered book"stenciled on them. They'll look more professional against a black table covering.

I think it's important for us to get our books out into the "legitimate" traditional art world whenever we can. It raises their acceptance level and also is a good "green" art form that should be taught and explored. I'd like to hear from others who have shown their books and hear their experiences. You are welcome to email me at or to share your experiences in a comment here anytime.

1 comment:

  1. Janene, I really just LOVE that photo of you with your altered book! I am so proud of you for entering your art...and of course they accepted the juried art show! I wish they had a different catagory for assemblage/altered art, as it is very different than sculpture!